Athens, Greece – Greek-Turkish diplomatic political rush to start exploratory contacts is striking for geopolitical dynamics in the region. Istanbul F 515 frigate is Turkey’s answer to the exploratory talks. The political arguments below reveal the Greek thesis on Exploratory Talks to resume on January 25, 2021 in Istanbul, Turkey:

Political romanticism, intense external pressures or electoral purposes are the only explanations as to why Greece, after all it has endured and continues to endure daily, instead of reversing pressures and taking full advantage of the available strategic window, prefers to concede the advantage to a cornered Turkey.

The constant undermining of Greek rights, the hasty reactions instead of new strategies and the impressive failure to do the easiest thing: secure substantial support from Greece’s strongest ally, the European Union. Greece should have sought a secure framework for a dialogue with Turkey, based on EU’s terms, rules and guarantees. At least reaffirm previous and substantive decisions that set key terms, such as “according to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea” (UNCLOS), and not the ridiculous condition of indefinite respect for “international law.” Greece’s showing weakness in a most favorable confrontation field gives non-daydreamers the right to worry about what will happen in the exploratory contacts.

Concerns grow as the (already minimalist) precondition for “consistency and continuity” is flouted daily, as Greece pretend not to be aware of the Turkish agenda and are drawn into a dialogue when: a) Turkey is facing pressures from the inside and the outside, b) Greece expects a more favorable US involvement, c) Greece thinks that by March 2021 it can forge a better for Greece, not for Turkey and its friends, new relationship between the EU and Turkey, by threatening to veto countries that have turned their backs on Greece, but have prominent issues which are minor to Greece (e.g. Latin America on Portugal and Spain), and d) Greece doesn’t even have a comprehensive plan for the exploratory contacts.

A dialogue between Greece and Turley would certainly need conditions. However, how can Greece happily enter into a dialogue with a gun to its head, and with “international law” as the only condition? Instead of gaining time for a strategical reorganization, Greece is rushing contentedly into a predetermined dead-end with two main possible outcomes: Either Greece leaves when hearing the “Blue Homeland” list or Greece just continues pretending to debate only the continental shelf and exclusive economic zones, while practically slipping toward the unthinkable. In the first scenario, the EU will criticize Greece, and Turkey will escalate challenges to drag Greece back into a dialogue with even worse conditions. In the second, Greece will undermine its national interests and defer the problem to the future with even worse terms – a well-known recipe, which of course ensures a “smooth” road to elections.

Yet, there is a better strategy:

  1. The wise “third way” to dialogue is based on European standards: Ask for (and require partners to co-sign) international basic terms and conditions: Acceptance of UNCLOS and the applicable international treaties (not generalities like international law), and b) practical and long-term commitment to a peaceful settlement (not pauses of “normality” amid strong-arm tactics on the ground).
  1. Show flexibility in order to take good advantage of the new Turkish hypocrisy about EU membership: Lift the block on Chapter 13 (fisheries) and introduce it in order for candidate Turkey to prove it actually accepts the mandatory adhesion to UNCLOS as part of the Community. Thus, succeed in turning Greek-Turkish issues into Euro-Turkish ones (see “Negotiating Framework EU-Turkey,” 2005) and obtain a European “guarantee” for a peaceful settlement.

The Greek media outcry that Greece’s decisive stance forced Turkey to fold cannot win a controversy. The unrealistic assumptions that Greece is holding talks with Turkey could lead to catalytic national damage.

Greece thinks that a dialogue without EU’ terms, rules and guarantees will never lead to a diplomatic political solution. Greece therefore argues that these Greek-Turkish exploratory talks, lacking EU norms, are doomed to fail, and Greece aims to transform the format of these talks into EU-Turk exploratory talks. As it is well-known, yet the EU-Turkey relations have not achieved important progress since 1963 EU-Turkey Association Agreement.

EU-Turkey Association Agreement (the “Ankara Agreement”)

An “Agreement creating an association between the European Economic Community and Turkey” was signed in Ankara on 12 September 1963 and entered into force on 1 December 1964.

The EU-Turkey Association Agreement aimed to promote a continuous and balanced strengthening of trade and economic relations between the Parties and to establish progressively a customs union. The treaty comprises 3 stages:

a preparatory stage (+/-5 years);
a transitional stage involving the establishment of a customs union (12 years); and
a final stage.

When it was first signed, the treaty constituted a response to Turkey’s application to join the European Economic Community in 1959; the Association Agreement represented an interim step towards accession.

Article 27 of the Agreement described contacts between the European Parliament and the Turkish Parliament.

An Additional Protocol to the Agreement was signed by both parties signed in Brussels on 23 November 1970.

Customs Union between the EU and Turkey

The final phase of the relations between the EC and Turkey under the Ankara Association Agreement 1963 was to achieve the EC-Turkey Customs Union.

This final phase entered into force on 1 July 1996. It was established through a decision of 22 December 1995 issued by the EC-Turkey Association Council, a body established by the Ankara Agreement more than three decades previously.

On 28 March 2001, a Decision of the EC-Turkey Customs Co-operation Committee (the “Decision No 1/2001” called “bridging-legislation”) established implementing customs provisions of Decision No 1/95, applicable to trade in goods between the two parts of the customs union and with third countries.

The scope of this customs union, based on the status of goods in free circulation, is limited to products other than agricultural products, as defined in Annex I of the Amsterdam Treaty, and coal and steel products, which are subject only to preferential agreements based on their originating status.

Industrial products originating in Turkey, including processed agricultural products and coal and steel products, benefit from the pan-European system of cumulation of origin. That is not the case for agricultural products.